With the win over Iowa yesterday, the Big Ten West was won by Northwestern, their first division title since the division format was developed following the addition of Nebraska to the conference in 2011. Let’s look at how they and the rest of the conference did yesterday:
Nebraska (3-7) 54 Illinois (4-6) 35
Nebraska, which was winless for the first half of their season, have gone 3-1 since their first win on October 20 against Minnesota. Yesterday, they flexed their muscles against Illinois, whose mistake-prone play led to a big win at home. The Illini turned over the ball five times, and the ‘Huskers added three touchdowns and a field goal to their score as a result. As you would imagine in a team that scored 54 points, the Nebraska offense was clicking, and freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez threw for just under 300 yards and four touchdowns. Illinois’ mistakes in the first half doomed their efforts to be competitive in this game.
Indiana (5-5) 34 Maryland (5-5) 32
Indiana’s defense stepped up and held the Terrapins to field goals in their first two trips in the red zone, until the Hoosier offense woke up and scored a flurry of three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a lead they held until mid-way through the fourth quarter. Maryland took a narrow one-point lead with just under five minutes to play. However, a final field goal and a fumble recovery sealed the win for Indiana.
#10 Ohio State (9-1) 26 #18 Michigan State (6-4) 6
In what turned out to be a primarily defensive battle, Ohio State struggled at times, but came away with a win over a game Spartan squad on the road in East Lansing. At the end of three quarters, the Buckeyes had only scored a single touchdown and field goal against a pair of field goals by Michigan State. However, three scores in the fourth quarter added 17 points to their final total, and Ohio State went home with yet another win on the season.
#20 Penn State (7-3) 22 Wisconsin (6-4) 10
Following an initial touchdown run by Badger star running back Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin never led again in this game that demonstrated a resurgent running game for the Nittany Lions. Penn State came back and tied the game halfway through the first quarter, and took the lead for good with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. Wisconsin closed the lead to six with a third quarter field goal, but Penn State tacked on a pair of field goals to seal the win.
Northwestern (6-4) 14 #21 Iowa (6-4) 10
As stated above, the Northwestern Wildcats used a stout defense to stop the Hawkeyes run game and win their first-ever division title and put them in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on December 1. In a strange coincidence, due to the weakness of the division, they not only clinched their division title, but also their bowl eligibility at the same time.
Minnesota (5-5) 41 Purdue (5-5) 10
The Golden Gopher defense turned in its best performance of the season against their Big Ten West foe, and held a sometimes high-flying offense of the Boilermakers to two scores on the day. Meanwhile, MInnesota’s quarterback Seth Green turned in a strong performance with both a running and a passing touchdown to his record, and Gopher running back Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 156 yards.
The strong defense came under Minnesota’s new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, who was hired to replace Robb Smith after last week’s loss to Illinois, where the defense gave up 55 points to the Illini. Smith was fired following the game and the Minnesota defense seemed to respond well to the change.
#4 Michigan (9-1) 42 Rutgers (1-9) 7
Michigan won its ninth consecutive victory on the arm of senior quarterback Shea Patterson, who threw for three touchdowns to beat the hapless Scarlet Knights yesterday afternoon. HighPoint.com Stadium was a sea of maize and blue jackets and hats as a strong contingent of Michigan fans turned out to watch the Wolverines turn away Rutgers. Scarlet Knight quarterback Artur Sitkowski did not register any passing yards in the first half, and ended the day with only 40 yards and one interception.
The sole bright spot on the day for Rutgers was an electrifying 80 yard running touchdown by true freshman Isaiah Pacheco, the longest run by a freshman in program history. Pacheco ended the day with 142 yards.
With the Big Ten West now decided, eyes are turning to the final week of the season, where the Big Ten East’s crown will be decided in The Game, the annual final-week matchup between Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan has only won this matchup once in the past 15 years, so the hype for this year’s game will be huge by the time it takes place in two weeks.
Meanwhile, Rutgers faces a pair of Big Ten East heavyweights in their final two weeks, taking on Penn State at home next week before ending the season on the road against Michigan State on the road in East Lansing.